Monday, May 31, 2010

Hold music

81 minutes.
That’s one hour and 21 minutes.
One-24th of an entire day.
4860 seconds.

It’s the running time of both the 1964 film classic Santa Claus Conquers the Martians and the South Park movie from 1999 and also the amount of time I spent on hold to the Births Deaths & Marriages department of the Queensland government today.

Oh. My. God.

Me at approximately 10.49am today. Please note the beautiful scapula and rather jaunty neckerchief.

Let me preface this rant by saying that I use a headset phone (I was at work, I use a headset as I do lots of interviews over the phone) and I had plenty to go along with, work-wise, while I waited.
And waited.
And listened endlessly to that one, standard issue hold music instrumental that is most likely psych-tested as being a quite lively, quite upbeat and happy collection of classical notes and one that will more likely than not improve your mood by a factor of 3.4 or something by the time you are connected and can complete your call.
But I doubt even the psych testers would have had the patience to extend their research to examine the impact on the human mind if it ends up listening to it for almost an hour and a half.

First it was a game, as I said to myself laughingly "oh, I wonder if it will get to 30 minutes". Then it became irritating, as I said to myself haughtily "will it get to one hour?"

And then it became a battle of wills, as I said to myself menacingly, "if it gets to one and a half hours, I will kill someone"...with Michael Douglas in Falling Down firmly in mind.

Actually, it was quite interesting.
I doodled with my pen and pad as I waited – see, I told you I had plenty of important work to go along with.
I found my doodles slowly transformed from flowers, boxes and dots to mountains, then volcanoes, then trees, then exploding birds, then prehistoric cro-magnon man villages with caves and fires...and then to a primitive, angry, mono-coloured sketch depicting a sacrificial ritual whereby the incompetent underlings of this ancient society were tied to four posts, laid over a fire and then torn apart by the tribe leader’s cannibal children.
Look out for the sketches at the Art Gallery in July. Which art gallery? The one in every single fricking capital city of the world, such was the volume of my doodling...
I was ringing this fabulously well-run and well-managed department to enquire about the new law that comes in tomorrow, allowing lesbian co-mothers (that’s me!) to put their names on their children’s birth certificates.
Despite the fact that I was repeatedly told via the hold music robot that I could go to the website, where I was assured a full and comprehensive list of fees and information was waiting for me, I knew better than to naively hang up and go fossicking online.
For I know the ineptitude of government departments. I know how poorly prepared they always turn out to be when a law changes. I know how pathetic the flow of information from Parliament to government department and then on to customer service operators and, eventually, the public truly is.
We experienced it when Centrelink conveniently decided to recognise our relationship a few years back, thereby eliminating our ability to access a single mother’s pension for T.
Repeated attempts to get a straight answer out of Centrelink back then, well after the supposed deadlines stated, proved more than frustrating.
And, again, so it was.

A range of new surrogacy and family laws come in tomorrow. They will have significant impact not only on the specific families involved, but also on the way Births Deaths & Marriages conducts its business.
And so, surely even Helen Keller would have had the sense (forgive the pun) to predict an increase in phone calls from the public today.
I forget her name, but the lady who answered me (finally!) was completely lovely – and I can only assume someone had sprinkled a little amphetamine upper on her Iced Vo-Vos at morning tea.
Either that, or she was in shock and borderline hysterical.
There is no way a “client services officer”, as they are known, could have been so nice when she was dealing with this: more than 100 people waiting in the phone queue and only six, that’s right: six, people rostered on in the call centre.
Unbelievable, isn’t it? That’s what she told me was going on during her day today as a direct result of the new laws.

100 people waiting in line, and only six people in the office.

Anyway. I was right. The website was not up to date.
I initially thought we would be slugged $135 to change a name on a birth certificate. Then lovely crazy lady told me it would be $84 before putting me on hold.
On hold! Are you serious? Again??

She came back after about three minutes, during which time she checked the detail with her boss – and no doubt grabbed a cup of water, splashing it on her face and sucking down a tube of protein goo while paramedics checked her vital signs.
It will, in fact, cost us $15.50. We will fill out a form, we will send the original certificate in with that form and our payment, and we will get a new one back in the mail.
Total call duration: one hour and 32 minutes.
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the Queensland government.

Funny, and it's such an absurd thing, this experience. Particularly when you consider the momentousness of what this means for me.

What's a few hours on the phone, when this is about inextricably linking me to my son, where no biological link currently exists?

Today I am potentially no one to him. Today, an independent third party would look at me, and look at him, and look at the documents that intimidating, powerful places like courts, police stations and governments think are the only things that define a person. And he will say, "who are you to him? You are no one."

Tomorrow, that changes.

(Good info at Australian Gay and Lesbian Law blog here.)


  1. How exciting - not the whole waiting on the phone call bit, but you being able to be on the birth certificate too! I assume you've done it now? Nice to find anotehr Australian IVF blogger. Enjoy your bleeding on command - and get used to it!

  2. Hey there - thanks for your comment! Nice to meet you.
    Haven't yet got to the birth certificate - you know how life sort of takes over, but thanks for the reminder! Must do that ASAP.
    Are you blogging too? Would love to know more about your situation. Good luck at whatever stage in the process you are!